Pets can contract new, more contagious variant of Covid-19: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 21, 2021

A recently published study has found evidence that dogs and cats could contract the new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus -- B.1.1.7.

The variant was first detected in the United Kingdom (UK). Now, the researchers are apprehensive that the virus may have jumped to pets as well. Around 95 per cent of the cases in the UK are due to the B.1.1.7. strain.

One of the studies was carried out by Eric Leroy, who is a virologist at the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development who specialises in zoonotic diseases.

Leroy and colleagues examined pets admitted to the cardiology unit of the Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre in London. The hospital had reported an unprecedented surge in the number of dogs and cats presenting with myocarditis: From December 2020 to February, the incidence of the condition spiked significantly from 1.4 per cent to 12.8 per cent.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart tissue that, in serious cases, can cause heart failure.

“It’s an interesting hypothesis, but there’s no evidence that the virus is causing myocarditis,” said Scott Weese, a veterinarian at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College who specializes in emerging infectious diseases.

The researchers analyzed 11 pets: eight cats and three dogs. None of the animals had a history of cardiac issues. However, they still had myocarditis. The symptoms included lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, and fainting. These are also the symptoms reported in human cases of the novel coronavirus.

The researchers also carried out an RT-PCR test of the pets, and three were tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. All three of them had been infected by the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus.

Leroy further stated that it is still unclear whether B.1.1.7 is more transmissible than the original strain between humans and animals, or vice versa.

The researchers are yet to figure out what role, if any, SARS-CoV-2 and its variants play in myocarditis among pets.

The findings of the study were published in the pre-print server bioRxiv and mentioned in the Science Magazine.

Published on March 21, 2021

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